Crosswalks and City Vibes

It’s funny what you notice when you travel. The sights, the food, the smells, the people (not necessarily in that order!). One of the things that you would think would be universal across the world is the way that we cross the road. Spoiler alert: it isn’t!

I’ve started to become quite tuned in to crossing habits – or at least the crossing signs and sounds that facilitate them. It sounds really nerdy and I apologise for that, however I’m starting to believe that you can learn a lot about different cities by their road-crossing habits.

New York for example: no jay walking and no messing about. They have huge traffic lights, clearly marked crossings and timers that count down the time you have left to cross. It’s perfect for the no nonsense city of Manhattan. They also have ‘diagonal crosswalks’ – getting you from one side of the road to another in the most effective way – the Big Apple has busy people so it makes sense that the crosswalks get you from place ‘A’ to place ‘B’ as quickly as possible. They also use the visual symbols of a red hand for stop and a green man for go – just to keep everyone clear.

Being from the UK, it became a game on our last trip to New York to see which crosswalk would ‘turn green’ to get us to our route the fastest. Let’s face it; we are haphazard and disorganised in England, sometimes we have crossing guards or pedestrian crossings to help us get across the road, but most of the time we take our life in our hands and just cross wherever – we are rebels when it comes to jay-walking!

Vancouver crossings? They use the same visual imagery as those in the USA, however they are accompanied by a chirping bird sound to help those with visual impairments become aware of the safe times to cross.

We stayed in a busy area of Vancouver on our trip and the first morning I was amazed by how much bird-song I could hear until I made my first trip on foot around the city and realised that I was listening to the crossing sounds rather than actual birds. It’s a beautiful way of making something functional also sound natural. Perfectly at home in the city that fits neatly between mountains, beaches and trees.

I thought that the Vancouver crosswalks had won the achievement of the cutest crossing with their bird chips, however I was corrected on a recent trip to Vienna. Yes their crossings have an annoying ‘click’ sound which is not a patch on the Canadian bird noises used to support those with visual impairments and yes I did complain about this multiple times (although it did the job, I could hear it really loudly though the wooly hat I bought to help combat the -7 degree weather). However, as I looked up at the visual display on the crossing, I saw the cutest crossing image that I’ve come across so far……

The ‘don’t cross’ sign was fairly standard – two red people stood side by side. But the ‘safe to cross’ sign; was two people, waking hand in hand with a little love heart. I loved it! A tiny little touch, but I think that it says a lot about the lovely people of Vienna that they took the time to add this detail. It made me smile, despite the cold weather!